6 November 1998

On November 5 the California Air Resources Board (ARB) approved a package of new automobile emission standards known as Low Emission Vehicle II (LEV II). The regulations will run from 2004 through 2010.

Among other standards, the regulatory package requires most mini vans, pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) up to 8500 pounds gross vehicle weight to reduce emissions to passenger car levels by 2007. These vehicles currently certify to a less stringent medium-duty vehicle category standard.

The auto manufacturers had proposed an alternative plan for California, which exempted the heaviest vehicles from the most restrictive requirements. The ARB turned down that request.

Since the emission standards are expressed in grams of pollutants emitted from the vehicle per mile, the light trucks and SUVs will have to be actually cleaner than cars if emissions are compared relative to the engine power output.

Under LEV II diesels will have to certify to the same standards as gasoline vehicles. The ARB removed from the LEV II package a proposed less stringent emission standard which would have made it easier for automakers to sell diesel cars, pickups and SUVs.

Other requirements in the LEV II package include:

  • An extension and tightening of the fleet average standards requiring automakers to reduce fleet emission levels each year through 2010. A "fleet" includes all new vehicles an automaker sells each year in California.
  • Significantly lower oxides of nitrogen (the main contributor to smog) standards for low and ultra-low emission vehicles; a reduction of 75% from current LEV standards.
  • Significantly lower particulate matter emission standards for light-duty diesel vehicles.
  • Increased emission control durability standards, from 100,000 miles to 120,000 miles, for all passenger cars and other vehicles up to 8500 pounds gross vehicle weight.
  • Further reduction in evaporative emissions from hoses, gas lines, and valves.
  • Creation of partial zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) credits for vehicles that achieve near-zero emissions, such as hybrids, fuel cells and cars meeting the new super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV) standard.

When LEV II is fully implemented in 2010, the ARB estimates that smog-forming emissions in the Los Angeles area will be reduced by 57 tons per day, while the statewide reduction will be 155 tons per day.

Environmental groups hailed the new standards and vowed to push for more aggressive nationwide emissions limits. They said the next battleground in the air quality fight will be at the federal level, where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is getting ready for the nationwide Tier II light duty vehicle emission standards.

The LEV II standards extend to the most profitable vehicle categories - light trucks and sport utility vehicles. The US car makers said they had not yet decided whether to challenge the rules.

Source: California ARB